Brand turns it up with Odom out


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- With Lamar Odom sidelined, Elton Brand knew
he had to carry some extra weight for the Los Angeles Clippers.

He did so, and more.

Brand scored 31 points -- most by a Clipper this season -- grabbed
14 rebounds and had a season-high six blocked shots Monday night as
the Clippers pulled way in the final nine minutes to beat the
slumping Denver Nuggets 102-89.

"Elton Brand was sensational," Clippers coach Alvin Gentry
said. "I think it will be a crime if he's not on the All-Star
team, for what he's done as an individual and what he's done for
the team. He was just great."

Brand, who made 11 of 17 shots and 9 of 12 free throws while
playing 42 minutes, came to the Clippers in a draft-day trade from
the Chicago Bulls for rookie Tyson Chandler and forward Brian

So far, the deal has been a steal.

"I try not to think about Lamar being out, he's an asset to the
team," Brand said of Odom. "When he's out, we still have to play.
I just wanted to win the game, I just wanted to be very

Odom, averaging 13.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists,
missed his second straight game due to a sore right wrist.

Quentin Richardson, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds, scored
five points to spark a 9-1 run that turned a 79-77 Los Angeles lead
into a 10-point advantage with 6:25 remaining.

The Nuggets (12-28), who lost their 14th straight road game and
their 14th in 17 games overall, weren't closer than eight points
after that.

Michael Olowokandi had 14 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks,
and Jeff McInnis added 13 points for the Clippers (21-21).

Nick Van Exel led the Nuggets with 19 points, 10 assists and
seven rebounds. Voshon Lenard added 16 points and Zendon Hamilton
had a career-high 13 points and 10 rebounds.

The Clippers led by as many as 20 points in the first quarter,
but the Nuggets chipped away, and finally took a 71-69 lead -- their
first of the game -- on back-to-back 3-pointers by Van Exel late in
the third period.

However, two baskets by Brand and another by McInnis put the
Clippers on top 75-71 entering the fourth quarter, and they led the
rest of the way.

"We've got to come in with more focus," Denver's Avery Johnson
said. "We're not ready to play. You come back, it looks good, the
Nuggets are putting up a good fight. We have to come in ready to
play and not dig holes for ourselves."

Olowokandi had 12 points, six rebounds and four blocks in the
first quarter, which ended with the Clippers on top 37-21.

Lenard scored 13 points and Johnson added eight in the second
period as the Nuggets outscored the Clippers 31-22 to draw within
seven points at halftime.

"We spotted them about 19, 20 points," Nuggets coach Mike
Evans said. "We made a heck of a run. When you expend that kind of
energy, you're going to run out of gas. I think that happened

"We have to get some healthy bodies back. The sooner that
happens, the sooner we'll be able to compete."

The Nuggets face the two-time defending NBA champion Lakers on
Tuesday night in Shaquille O'Neal's return after a three-game

"Scared, scared, the way they beat San Antonio the other night,
very scared," ex-Laker Van Exel said when asked about facing his
former team.

McInnis, averaging 13.6 points and a team-leading 5.1 assists,
missed the Clippers' shootaround earlier in the day and was
replaced by Earl Boykins, who had six points and four assists in
his first NBA start.

McInnis, who started the Clippers' first 41 games, entered for
the first time at the beginning of the second quarter.

Game notes
Odom said he hopes to return Wednesday night against the
Lakers, but didn't sound very optimistic. "I'm kind of frustrated,
being hurt," he said. "The pain is just too much." ... The
Nuggets, coming off a 104-77 loss at Seattle, played without Scott
Williams, who sat out his fifth game because of a sore lower back,
and George McCloud, who missed his eighth with a strained right
calf. ... Clippers G Eric Piatkowski had a career-high nine assists
to go with nine points. ... The Clippers have played an NBA-high 25
home games, and their 18 wins at home are tied with Minnesota for
second behind Sacramento's 23. However, their 3-14 road record is
the third-poorest in the NBA, ahead of Chicago (1-18) and Denver
(2-16). ... The Clippers signed G Eldridge Recasner to a second
10-day contract.